After shaking off a stomach bug which threatened to force him out of the race altogether, the Red Bull GasGas rider started the first stage after the rest day at 7:03s off the pace.
However, that figure blew out by more than 16 minutes on the latest, Riyadh to Haradh special, when Sanders was one of five big names who appeared to stray off-course between the Kilometre 85 and Kilometre 123 waypoints.
“Today was always going to be tough leading out and early on I quickly caught up with the leading riders,” said the Australian, who started third on the road by virtue of his Stage 8 result.
“There was a note in the road book to head up into a rocky plateau but once up there it was really hard to find the way.
“I reckon I lost around 15 minutes or so there, but that's how rally goes sometimes.
“It's a little frustrating but all I can do is keep moving forward and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.”
The list of genuine contenders looks to have thinned from eight to three in just one stage, although Husqvarna's Skyler Howes and Red Bull KTM's Toby Price are both more than five minutes up on third-placed Kevin Benavides in the overall classification.
Price admitted that he too thought he was going to dump time due to a navigational scare but finished Stage 9 second-fastest and now trails Howes by just three seconds with five stages to come.